BlackBerry 7230

10 Jun 2004

Product: Wireless Handheld
Price: €379

The BlackBerry device has achieved almost iconic status since it first appeared in 1997. On the other side of the Atlantic it was catapulted to fame by the events of 11 September after New Yorkers trapped in the Twin Towers used the device to communicate with friends and family. It now boasts a growing following in Europe.

The popularity of the BlackBerry stems from one principal feature: it allows people to retrieve their emails when they are on the move.

The BlackBerry reviewed here – the 7230 – is the successor to the original. The review model was kindly supplied by O2 Ireland (and the pricing appearing above is O2’s) but Vodafone has also launched the 7230 recently, perhaps sensing that the Irish handheld market is finally ready to take off with this nifty piece of kit. This assessment could be right, for the 7230 has a number of points in its favour. For a start, where its predecessor had all the style of a Lada – and a black Lada at that – the 7230 goes big on colour.

Though its screen is considerably smaller than the original’s, it is rendered in glorious high-resolution colour, and the funeral black casing has been supplanted by a cool metallic blue.

Although the new machine is not actually much smaller than its predecessor and weighs almost exactly the same (4.8oz), it feels a lot neater thanks to its curved corners and tapered bottom end. The layout is practically identical, with the keyboard positioned below the screen and the scroll and back buttons positioned at right angles on the side of the device – perfectly situated for the user’s thumb.

In terms of features, the big difference with this machine is that it incorporates a mobile phone, which also, hallelujah, means SMS messaging capability. As a triband device, it will work in North America as well as in Europe and the Far East. To use the phone you simply press a button with a phone symbol on the top end of the device, plug in your earpiece and key in your number. There is a dinky speed dial feature that allows you to store up to two dozen numbers. For texting, the keyboard makes a pleasant change to the fiddly phone keypad.

Handy though it is, the phone function is not what most users will be buying this machine for: the ability to send and retrieve email remains its key selling point. To do this, you will need to redirect mail from both any internet mail accounts you have and, more importantly perhaps, from your company email account.

I found the latter operation the trickiest aspect of setting up the BlackBerry. Software is supplied that allows the redirection to be done through the email server or through the email client on your own PC. Having tried to install the software, I found I required ‘administrator’ access to do so, but even with this level of access setting it up would have been a challenge.

Unless you are very tech savvy, the chances are that you will require the services of your IT technician to get your company email redirected to your BlackBerry. The other thing worth noting is that the redirection software will only work while your PC is switched on and connected to the network.

Strictly speaking, the BlackBerry software is not needed to redirect company mails. This can be easily done at the server level so long as you have a web mail account to bounce the messages on to. It should be remembered, however, that unlike your corporate mail server, web mail has a limited storage capacity. Moreover, you will need to install the software anyway if you wish to synchronise with your address book, calendar and other functions in Outlook on your PC (via the USB cable supplied).

As with any handheld, battery life is an important consideration. I found the battery lasted for two or three days of moderate use, though this would naturally shorten if the phone were used a lot. The device can be charged up by either connecting it to a PC’s USB port or via its own charger.

The BlackBerry 7230 comes at a recommended retail price of €379 including Vat, plus a monthly fee starting from €30 per 3MB of data (equivalent to about 1,000 emails). It may not be a cheap buy but its value proposition is hard to beat: the convenience of having a single small device that can handle emails, texts and phone calls too.

By Brian Skelly